The Right to Die
The courageous Canadians who gave us the right to a dignified death
How the fight for assisted suicide was won in the court of public opinion — and eventually the Supreme Court, too
"Who owns my life?" Sue Rodriguez was dying of a form of ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease) when she asked this question of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1993. She was fighting for the right to a physician-assisted death before she became fully paralyzed. At the time, assisted suicide could result in jail time for the participating physician. In a narrow decision, Rodriguez lost her case. She died in 1994.
In a historic reversal, in 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada changed its mind. The court ruled that Canadians suffering unbearably from illness or disease do not have a duty to live. The landmark, unanimous decision was the culmination of two decades during which public opinion came to favour assisted suicide. The shift was the result of the efforts of courageous Canadians who asked for the right to a dignified death. In this book, Gary Bauslaugh tells their stories.
Among those whose stories are told are:
- Sue Rodriguez, whose experience led to a split decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to retain laws against assisted suicide
- Robert Latimer, convicted of second-degree murder for ending the life of his daughter who lived with debilitating cerebral palsy
- John Hofsess and Evelyn Martens, who spent years giving practical assistance to those seeking help in dying
- Donald Low, a renowned doctor who battled Toronto's SARS outbreak, yet was denied control over his end-of-life when diagnosed with a brain tumour
- Kay Carter and Gloria Taylor, the Vancouver women whose end-of-life struggles were at the heart of the 2015 Supreme Court case